Although family therapists generally believe that dating is an important and healthy part of teen development, many parents forbid dating until their children are a certain age or even are out of high school. Remember that if you are under 18, your parents have the final say. Rather than sneaking around or lying, try following several steps to convince your parents to relax the rules.
Clarify Boundaries and Expectations
Sit down with your parents at a time when you are all relaxed. Some people find that dinner is a good time, while others carve out time during a weekend. If you or your parents are extremely busy, consider scheduling a date with them. Calmly explain that you have some questions about their expectations. Make it clear that you are not trying to argue, but merely to understand. Ask your parents whether their rules prohibit any dating or only exclusive relationships. Find out if you are allowed to go out with mixed-gender groups. Maybe your parents don’t actually object to dating, but only to your riding in the car with a teen driver. This is an excellent chance for your parents to think through specific situations that might not have occurred to them, and for you to discover common ground. Once the expectations are clarified, you might find that you are comfortable with the existing policy.
Negotiate the Rules
If you feel that your parents are being too strict, engage them in calm and rational negotiations. In his blog, psychologist Bill Baker lays out several tips for successfully negotiating with parents. The first is to prepare for the conversation. Your goal is to provide your parents with all the information they need to grant your request. Write down what you want as specifically as you can, whether it is to go to an afternoon movie with a boy from school or to have a steady boyfriend. Prepare as much supporting evidence as possible of your maturity and ability to cope with the challenges of dating. Make a safety plan for how you will handle potentially dangerous situations, such as a drunk date or one who tries to become too physical. Anticipate your parents’ questions and provide the answers before they ask. Choose your timing carefully, agree to abide by their decision and then state your case clearly and concisely.
Prove You Are Trustworthy
If your parents say no to your initial request, don’t give up hope. Listen closely to their reasons for saying no and set out to address those factors in your life. Pull up your grades, sign up for extracurricular activities, help out around the house and consider getting a part-time job if you are old enough. Show your parents that you are trustworthy and reliable and then revisit the negotiations in several months. In your next negotiation, be ready to demonstrate your new reliability and ask for less than you asked for originally. For example, if your parents said no to car dates, ask if you can meet a boy at the movies or another location.
Enlist Outside Help
If your parents refuse to budge, consider seeking outside help, especially if you are in your later teens. A school counselor, therapist, friend of your parents or relative might be able to convince your parents to change their minds. Choose someone your parents like and trust, someone you know will be tactful and respectful.
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